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The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin
by Harry Houdini


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The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin by Harry Houdini

Houdini was upset that the widow of Robert-Houdin did not want to meet him. As a revenge Harry Houdini wrote The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, in which Houdini tries to push Robert-Houdin from his pedestal. He tries to show that most tricks Robert-Houdin claimed as his invention were in fact not his invention and that Robert-Houdin was not this great magician he usually is thought he was. But most of Houdini's allegations are fabricated and do not stand close inspection. Jean Hugard wrote as response to Houdini's nasty book Houdini's Unmasking, where Hugard point for point refutes Houdini's argumentation. I personally favor Hugard's opinion, but you can now find out for yourself and get both books for a few bucks.

In any case The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin is insofar very interesting as it shows a lot of images, clippings, and programs of well known magicians. It documents an interesting part of magic history. In fact, at the time of publication in 1906 it was the first such history of European conjuring pre-1850 which was reliable. It was quite unprecedented in its day in it's depth, and scope of scholarship. In fact, it remained the most distinguished book on the subject until quite recently beginning with the contributions of Milbourne Christopher and continuing to the present. It was of course completely overshadowed by the marvelous The Annals Of Conjuring twenty years later, but that was not a book, it was a serial appearing in The Magic Wand in the late 1920's.

1st edition, 1906, George Routledge & Sons, London; later reprinted by Magico Magazine, New York; 319 pages.

  1. Addenda and Corrigenda
  2. Introduction
  3. I.Significant Events in the Life of Robert-Houdin
  4. II.The Orange-Tree Trick
  5. III.The Writing and Drawing Figure
  6. IV.The Pastry Cook of the Palais Royal
  7. V.The Obedient Cards - The Cabalistic Clock - The Trapeze Automaton
  8. VI.The Inexhaustible Bottle
  9. VII.Second Sight
  10. VIII.The Suspension Trick
  11. IX.The Disappearing Handkerchief
  12. X.Robert-Houdin's Ignorance of Magic as Betrayed by His Own Pen
  13. XI.The Narrowness of Robert-Houdin's Memoirs

word count: 57527 which is equivalent to 230 standard pages of text